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The video tape unspools for 'Archive 81' as Netflix cancels horror hit after a single season

Dan Turner and the cult of Kaelego are no more.

By Josh Weiss
Archive 81

Archive 81 has officially run out of video tape. Deadline confirmed Thursday that the hit horror series has been canceled by Netflix a mere two months after the premiere of the show's debut (and now only) season.

As the report astutely points out, this decision comes as a rather shocking surprise, given how the series was able to top both Netflix and Nielsen streaming metrics. "With the streamer laser focused on analyzing viewing versus cost in their renewal decisions, the amount of eyeballs Archive 81 drew possibly did not meet the threshold Netflix had set for the series based on its budget," posits Deadline.

Executive produced by James Wan — and loosely based on the podcast of the same name — Archive 81 follows young archivist Daniel Turner (played by Mamoudou Athie) who stumbles upon a supernatural secret hiding within the video tapes he has been hired to restore. Martin Donovan, Matt McGorry, Julia Chan, Evan Jonigkeit, and Ariana Neal rounded out the principal cast.

The eighth and final episode of the show left a number of major story threads dangling, which showrunner/executive producer/director Rebecca Sonnenshine hoped to answer in a sophomore outing. "I hope so, but I actually have no idea," she told Entertainment Weekly in January when asked if the title had been picked up for a second round of episodes. "But I hope so. It was always meant to keep going. We are always thinking about Season 2."

One of the biggest mysteries that has yet to be solved is the origin of the fire that killed Dan's entire family. According to Donovan's character, Virgil Davenport (the man who commissions the VHS restoration in the first place), the deadly blaze was the result of a conflict between two religious factions that couldn't come to an agreement over the release of a demonic entity known as Kaelego.

"We definitely know who [started the fire], and that is Season 2," Sonnenshine added. "There are a lot of little Easter eggs or little things like that, that if you're like, 'I wonder if that's something that is part of the mythology and that will be explored further?' And, yes. Some things just didn't actually make it into the season. When you build a mythology series, you build out all this mythology, and then you're like, 'Oh, we don't have room for all that.' So that was a piece that we ended up saving for Season 2."

Michael Clear, Rebecca Thomas, Antoine Douaihy, and Paul Harris Boardman are executive producers alongside Wan and Sonnenshine. Rob Hackett, Evan Bleiweiss, and Michael Narducci are co-executive producers, with the original podcast's creators — Daniel Powell and Marc Sollinger — credited as co-producers. 

All eight episodes of Archive 81 are now streaming on Netflix and currently hold a score of 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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